What to do with the “competent squatter”

What to do with the “competent squatter”

What to do with the “competent squatter”  When hiring, everyone wants to find the eager, talented, ambitious and innovative candidate, but not every employee fits that bill. The worker who ticks all the boxes, but doesn’t go any further can also have their place in the right organization. 
 
This is the employee deemed the “competent squatter” by R.J. Morris, director of staffing at McCarthy Building Companies. 
 
“Good at the job, not moving anywhere. They are ‘at level’ and make that worse by not adding to their skill set. Ever. The squatter has never heard of the term ‘discretionary effort.’ Can you hire someone to come in, punch the clock and not much else? For me, I think companies can rarely afford it. Capacity and desire to grow are requirements in my mind,” Morris said. 
 
In some organizations the competent squatter could be a good person to have on a team, especially for larger companies and in roles with low requirements for innovation and high repetition, like records clerks. 
 
However, for many organizations having someone who won’t take initiative can potentially harm the team they’re on and the organization overall. This harm will be especially noticeable for start-ups and other small, fast paced organizations. 
 
“When we are honest with ourselves, we know not everyone can be whatever the latest euphemism is for a top performer,” Morris said. “Most of your team is closer to average than any of them want to admit. That does not mean, however, that you should tolerate complacency or low change-orientation.” 
 
In many cases effective performance management and the right incentives can help re-engage employees who are disconnected or coasting, but if someone is truly disinterested in contributing to the growth of their organization, HR should talk to that individual about what might interest them more and whether there is a different career path that organization can offer them that they will find more engaging.


 
10 Comments
  • Ann 2014-06-09 10:51:58 AM
    "Competent squatter" -- what a nasty and contemptuous phrase for the majority of employees who are content at what they do, pleasant, competent, reliable and good team players.

    Not every employee needs to be ambitious. If an employee is disinterested or not performing, HR should and can deal with the problem. Frustrated ambition can lead to a bitter and discontented employee. There's not always the opportunity to move up. I'm not suggesting that training and "keeping current" aren't important. I'm suggesting that HR needs to recognize the importance of having good solid and reliable performers who may not have the potential or desire to perform up.
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  • Joan 2014-06-09 11:29:19 AM
    We have many of these workers in the government. My only issue with these type of workers is having to listen to them complain about competent and motivated people moving up in the organization. Those of us who go the extra because we feel 1.) we are lucky to have a good job and 2.) we feel privileged to work for the government and service the Public. 'Complacency' is a terrible thing.
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  • Sharon 2014-06-09 11:34:46 AM
    I have to agree with Ann- the reality of today's flattened organizations is that there isn't room for everyone to move up, and we need to be honest about that. I don't think that employees who stay in a position for a long period are necessarily disengaged, though some might be of course. Also, some organizations provide little incentive or support (financial or otherwise) to improve one's skills, and many employees can't do it on their own.

    We should also be mindful that some people are truly happy to be able to go to work every day knowing what's expected of them, and perform their tasks competently, reasonably stress-free, and without always worrying about "what's next".
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